17:52 PM

Dr. Cuna Awarded Grant for Necrotizing Enterocolitis Research

Alain Cuna, MD, Neonatologist and physician-scientist, has been awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/Frontiers University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute KL2 grant.

Dr. Cuna’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), the most devastating neonatal intestinal emergency. The KL2 is a training award that allows Dr. Cuna to build his research skills under the mentorship of Dr. Sampath in the Donald W. Thibeault Lung and Immunology laboratories.

Dr. Cuna is also mentored by Dr. Shahid Umar, PhD (Vice Chair of Surgical Research, KUMC), and Dr. Mark Underwood, MD (Division Chief, Neonatology, UC Davis). His research is supported by Dr. Susana Chavez Bueno, MD (Infectious disease, Children's Mercy), members of the neonatology laboratories, Department of Pediatrics and the Children’s Mercy Research Institute.

NEC is a deadly intestinal disease that affects 5-10% of infants born prematurely. While inherent genetics and imbalanced intestinal microbial environment have been identified as key triggers of NEC, how these factors interact to cause NEC remain poorly understood.

This project aims to advance understanding of this complex interaction by using genetically modified mice developed in Dr. Sampath’s lab that mimics a mutation identified in preterm infants with NEC. This pathologic mutation is in Single Immunuglobulin Interleukin-1 related receptor (SIGIRR), a gene which normally functions as a brake for uncontrolled intestinal inflammation. We will also use this mouse model to test the potential of favorable manipulation of the gut microbiome, with probiotics or fecal transplant, in preventing or treating NEC in genetically predisposed hosts. Ultimately, the long-term goal of the project is to realize personalized, microbiome-based prevention and therapy against NEC based on one’s underlying genetic susceptibility for the disease.

About Us

Children’s Mercy Kansas City is an independent, non-profit, 390-bed pediatric health system, providing over half a million patient encounters each year for children from across the country. Children’s Mercy is ranked by U.S. News & World Report in all ten specialties. We have received Magnet® recognition five times for excellence in nursing services. In affiliation with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, our faculty of nearly 800 pediatric specialists and researchers is actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research and educating the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists. The Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI) integrates research and clinical care with nationally recognized expertise in genomic medicine, precision therapeutics, population health, health care innovation and emerging infections. In 2021 the CMRI moved into a nine-story, 375,000-square-foot space emphasizing a translational approach to research in which clinicians and researchers work together to accelerate the pace of discovery that enhances care.